OSA interventions ‘could save Australia $25 billion’

Reducing obstructive sleep apnoea rates by just a tenth in Australia would substantially improve health outcomes, produce life expectancy gains totalling 45,000 years and add $25 billion to the GDP, it has been estimated.

The figures are based on modelling by academics from Melbourne’s Monash and RMIT Universities, who argue their findings show there would be major economic as well as health benefits to a national effort to reduce the burden of OSA.

With an Australian Medical Research Future Fund grant, the researchers built a statistical algorithm to calculate the impact of OSA on the whole working-age (20-65 years of age) Australian population in 2021.

This captured 15.5 million Australians at the baseline year, of whom 565,969 were living with moderate-to-severe OSA – an overall prevalence of 4%.

Across its lifetime, the model projected 16,701 deaths would be prevented with the hypothetical intervention to reduce OSA prevalence by 10%.

The team said the shift would also prevent:

  • 47,542 cardiovascular events (44,526 new-onset and 3016 recurrent)
  • 88,583 episodes of major depressive disorder
  • 476 motor vehicle accidents

While adverse outcomes of type 2 diabetes (T2D) were not captured, there was also expected to be a significant reduction in new T2D cases, the researchers reported in the Journal of Sleep Research (link here).

Besides that, projected healthcare savings would total more than $573 million in acute care costs and $32 million for chronic disease management, while productivity gains would amount to some $25.68 billion.

Earlier published data was used to estimate an OSA prevalence of 4% across the cohort. Prevalence of comorbidities such as CVD, T2D, major depression and motor vehicle accidents was mostly drawn from the AIHW.

The team then plugged in those numbers, along with risk ratios gained from published meta-analyses to calculate the benefit of a 10% reduction in OSA prevalence.

“These results show the urgent need to implement improved detection and treatment strategies for OSA to ameliorate the impact of the disease on the Australian economy,” they wrote.

“Despite the increased awareness in recent years, the detection and diagnosis of sleep apnoea remain low in Australia.”

The researchers were silent on how their hypothetical 10% reduction would be achieved, although they suggested improved awareness among clinicians and patients would constitute a “first step”.

In the article’s conflict of interest statement, three of the five authors also reported being shareholders and employees of Snortox Ltd, a company researching and developing therapeutics for OSA.

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